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Brexit: Irish government criticised for Spain-Gibraltar veto 'missed opportunity'

Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokesperson Stephen Donnelly

THE Irish government has been criticised for not securing a veto over any Brexit deal for Northern Ireland in a similar way to Spain for Gibraltar.

In its draft negotiating guidelines, the European Union said decisions affecting the British territory of Gibraltar would be run past the Spanish government.

On the Irish border, the EU guidelines call for "flexible and imaginative solutions" which also "respect the integrity of the EU legal order."

They also state that the EU should "recognise existing bilateral agreements and arrangements" between the UK and Ireland which are compatible with European law.

But Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly, the party's Brexit spokesperson, yesterday criticised the Republic's government and taoiseach Enda Kenny for not securing a similar agreement to Spain.

He said that Spain's prime minister "has effectively obtained a veto on what happens Gibraltar in terms of its future relationship with the EU when the UK withdraws", and asked, "Where was the taoiseach when this was being agreed?"

"The failure of the Irish government to seek such a veto over how the EU engages with Northern Ireland is, unfortunately, a major dereliction of duties," he said.

"The question that needs to be asked is: did the government seek a similar veto and was it rejected, or did they even know such a deal was being agreed with Spain.

"The Irish government is relying too much on sentiment and is ignoring the need to seek firm agreements, in writing, on the issues that matter to the island of Ireland.

"Cross-border trade, and in particular the agri-business sector, as well as the peace process in general, are all dependent on the outcome of these negotiations.

"I am concerned that if an opportunity, such as the one Spain secured, was missed, what else could have been missed by the Irish government when it comes to these important negotiations."

Meanwhile, the SDLP's Claire Hanna said Brexiteers "need to wind their necks in" after a senior Tory said the British prime minister would defend Gibraltar in the same way as Margaret Thatcher defended the Falklands.

"The British Government needs friends on the international stage. But it seems that the Brexiteers can only make enemies. They need to wind their necks in ahead of negotiations with the EU," she said.

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